A more adventurous cycling tour! – pt I

Friday 6th May

I’m currently a little bored and tired half way through my trans-Atlantic flight. I’ve already watched Guardians of the Galaxy on a really small screen (probably better than A Force Awakens?) and thought I could put my time to good use my making a start on this year’s travel blog.

Packing for this year's VSS is turning out to be harder than usual. The tent takes up half the suitcase!

Packing for this year’s VSS is turning out to be harder than usual. The tent takes up half the suitcase!


So the bad news: Moz is unavailable for cycling and camping around the Hebrides this year. He’s being all grown up and is getting married this summer (congratulations!). You know, I’ll miss the guy. I suppose I’ll just have to hope he doesn’t disappear completely into adulthood with mortgage, wife, family, etc. Maybe he will be free next summer and we can return to the Outer Hebrides and do that ride from Bara to the Butt of Lewis?

I'll miss this guy

I’ll miss this guy

Luckily, I have a plan B: Micha! He successfully stepped in the year before last when Moz was busy, and we explored Orkney (although only the main island).

Meet Micha! You may remember him from previous adventures such as Orkney 2014.

Meet Micha! You may remember him from previous adventures such as Orkney 2014.

The two of us have come up with an elaborate plan based on me being in the US in May for a conference: we will tour Canada and America! Ok, admittedly, we’re only going to be tackling a very very small part of America, and an even smaller part of Canada but still, I’m feeling a little apprehensive. You see, the beauty of cycling around the Scottish islands, rather than the mainland, is that the islands don’t have so many of those hills called “mountains.” Sure, Skye has the Cullins, but Moz and I have been avoiding Skye! And while Harris can be pretty hilly, it ain’t all that bad – we managed from Northton to Tarbert on our first trip. It wasn’t exactly what ‘d call fun, but we made it. And the had a nice pub meal. But 2016’s trip is going to involve cycling on a whole other continent.

Recovering after cycling to Tarbert, 2012

Recovering after cycling to Tarbert, 2012

With this in mind, I decided to start training. I should probably say “training” though, as I’m not entirely convinced I’ve done enough. It turns out, Aberdeenshire over winter doesn’t make for best cycling country, and going out in the wind, rain, snow, hail, more and wind doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. At all. And sitting on an exercise bike in the gym is really boring. The whole joy of cycling for me is watching the countryside scroll past, enjoying the fresh air, and having an adventure. Going to the stuffy gym just isn’t all that much fun.

I needed to do something though as, to cut to the chase, Micha is a lot fitter than Moz. Cycling with Moz is great, as when I get to the top of the hill, I get a nice rest to admire the view while i wait for him to catch up.

Micha is somewhat faster up the hills than Moz :(

Micha is somewhat faster up the hills than Moz 😦

Cycling with Micha was the other way round. Here’s hoping that was just due to his marathon training, and he’s a lot less fit this year. I don’t want to be letting the team down! But even if he is going slower this year, we’re still planning on going at least twice as far as previous trips. So I decided I better start getting some regular exercise. It turned out that my solution to this was to start going salsa dancing three times a week. Which was certainly a lot of fun, but we’ll just have to wait and see how effective it is. I did also see a personal trainer at the gym for a few sessions, did some weights and have some exercises to keep working on. And hey, he agreed that salsa dancing for three hours in an evening counted as good exercise.

Landing at JFK is always something of an anti-climax. The plane tents to sit for half an hour before rolling up to gate. And then there’s the fun queue to get into the country. By the time I’m out of the airport, I’m too busy trying to not fall asleep to be excited.

I'm sure New York is usually busier than this.

I’m sure New York is usually busier than this.

Oh course, the excitement returns once I get off the subway and out onto the street. Although by the time I walk to the hotel, it’s close to midnight (5am GMT!) and I’m ready to pass out.

I wonder why donut pubs haven't caught on in Scotland yet? You'd think there would be a market.

I wonder why donut pubs haven’t caught on in Scotland yet? You’d think there would be a market.

Saturday 7th May

I always notice the loneliness of traveling alone most over breakfast. There’s nobody to make plans with! So I’ll write more blog. I’ve made it to the Grey Dog, which is a pretty nice cafe near NYU. And hey, the waitress even gave me a free refill of coffee.

Time for breakfast!

Time for breakfast!

I suppose I don't really need friends with I have coffee and cookie?

I suppose I don’t really need friends with I have coffee and cookie?

The plan for today is to meet Hannah (a friend and co-author from Edinburgh who has been lucky enough to get a six month sabbatical at CUNY) and go see some jazz. As that isn’t until this evening, I have the rest of the day free. New York is feeling very Scottish weather-wise, which is a first for me (I’ve been here three times before, always in May, and it’s been hot and sunny). But it’s dry, so good weather for wandering about (ie, not too hot!). I decide to head down to the south of Manhattan.

I guess they're called skyscrapers for a reason then.

I guess they’re called skyscrapers for a reason then.

I suppose I head right then?

I suppose I head right then?

In the evening I head off to the Jazz Gallery with Hannah, although we first swing by some swanky bar for a cocktail 🙂 The gig is really cool – Rafiq Bhatia appears to be doing that 90s era King Crimson/Portishead head jazz fusion thing I always thought would be great fun to play in a band. I’ll have to keep a look out to see what he does next!

Monday 9th May

Yesterday afternoon I went to play Go at one of the New York Go meetups. Its held in some sort of cool games room basement bar. Complete with jazz bands rehearsing throughout the afternoon.

This place feels very American.

This place feels very American.

I get a couple of games, and somehow manage to win both of them! That makes it Aberdeen 2 – 0 New York!

My first opponent. I'm hoping we'll keep in touch and play on Dragon Go Server.

My first opponent. I’m hoping we’ll keep in touch and play on Dragon Go Server.

Action shot! Look at all that concentration!

Action shot! Look at all that concentration!

Last night I met up with the Prof that I”m visiting, and had a great discussion of various research ideas, before going for a nice meal at a fancy Mexican place. I think I may have eaten too many churros. I feel that American food is quickly undoing all the exercise I did before this trip.

Monday afternoon and I met up with Hannah again, this time to talk over work ideas. Then I headed off to a salsa night at the Taj Lounge. Which was amazing! A normal Monday night in Manhattan turns out to be easily on a par with (or better) the best night I’ve seen in Scotland. There’s a live band, playing two sets, and it’s pretty much all non-stop salsa music. I stayed for about five hours before deciding it was time to go to sleep.

This place was super cool.

This place was super cool.

Wednesday 11th May

Today is my last day in New York. For lunch, I met up with Bård Edlund, who I know from musical collaborations via the internet. (There are various tracks around that we worked on together). In the evening I went to another New York Go club, and had another two games. It’s now 3-1 to Scotland!

I wish the Aberdeen club was this busy. We're getting there, but slowly!

I wish the Aberdeen club was this busy. We’re getting there, but slowly!

Next stop – Florida and the chaos that is VSS!

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